The New York Rangers will be one of the most interesting teams at the NHL trade deadline because two of their best players — right winger Ryan Callahan and top-pairing defenseman Dan Girardi — are eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1.
The Blueshirts can either re-sign both players to large contract extensions and risk their ability to sign future free agents (including Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Anton Stralman and Mats Zuccarello), or general manager Glen Sather could seek a trade(s) and avoid losing Callahan and/or Girardi for nothing in free agency.
“Negotiations regarding an extension are at a standstill, if not an impasse, with Callahan believed seeking a deal in the neighborhood of seven years at $42 million that is not in the same ballpark as general manager Glen Sather is willing to pay; not even a ballpark as expansive as Yankee Stadium, where the Rangers and Islanders will meet on Wednesday,” Brooks wrote.
Girardi’s situation appears to be different, with both sides not too far from a middle ground, per Brooks.
“Negotiations with first-pair right defenseman Dan Girardi, also a pending unrestricted free agent, also are ongoing,” Brooks wrote. “Girardi, who likely would yield a bigger bounty on the rental market than Callahan, is believed to be seeking a six-year deal in the neighborhood of $5.5 million per season, which represents fair market value. The Rangers have countered with two offers, one for six years at more than $5 million per and one for five years at more than $5.5 million per.”
It’s tough to imagine either player being traded.
Callahan is the heart and soul of the team as the leader on and off the ice. He’s never scored more than 54 points in a season and won’t dominate games offensively, but his physical presence in all three zones, reliable defense and high hockey IQ are difficult to replace mid-season.
The main concern with the 28-year-old captain is his durability. Callahan has never played a full 82-game season, and he’s missed more than 30 games with several different injuries over the last four years. His physical, power-forward style of play puts him at risk for injuries, so it’s easy to see why Sather would be a bit hesitant to give Callahan more than $6 million per season.
Girardi is the type of player that every team is looking for at the trade deadline. He’s a physical, shut-down defenseman who consistently ranks among the league leaders in blocked shots and minutes played against opposing teams’ top lines. Girardi was on the ice for more than 85 percent of Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin’s shifts in last year’s first-round playoff series, and the veteran defenseman limited one of the league’s top players to one goal and one assist through seven games.
New York has one of the best shut-down pairings in Girardi and young star Ryan McDonagh. Most teams don’t have one of these players on their blue line. Any extension with Girardi worth less than $6 million per season would be a good deal for the Blueshirts.
The salary cap is expected to be around $71 million next season, and it’s possible the ceiling could reach $80 million halfway through the current collective bargaining agreement. With that said, re-signing players such as Stepan, Kreider, Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Marc Staal won’t be cheap. The Rangers would be wise to work out extensions with Callahan and Girardi, but not at the expense of being able to keep the team’s core intact long term.